Neath Port Talbot Council engineers are currently carrying out additional inspections of Port Talbot’s 118-year-old Newbridge Road Bridge which was closed to vehicles in 1972 and then to all users in 2016.
It follows the discovery of further deterioration of the bridge by specialist conservation engineers commissioned by the council to examine possible repair or refurbishment options.
Recognising the importance of the bridge to the local community, the council and local councillors have been taking steps to look at the future of the bridge and cycle path since it had to be fully closed for public safety reasons in 2016.
Funding was allocated towards a detailed structural appraisal and study of the bridge in 2018 which confirmed the poor condition of the central span and deck of the structure.
It was while the study was continuing earlier this month that the further deterioration of a main girder on the bridge was discovered by Consulting Engineers Mann Williams, who specialise in conservation.
Work is now taking place to install access gates to gain better access for engineers to examine the extent of the deterioration, which is thought to be due to corrosion.
The structure has a Grade II listing from the Welsh Government’s conservation arm Cadw as an example of an ‘unusually detailed’ plate girder bridge. Its status as a listed structure means traditional materials and methods should be used wherever possible in any repairs or refurbishment.
It was closed to vehicles in 1972 by a previous authority due to safety concerns and the age of the bridge.
Neath Port Talbot Council say that work is continuing on monitoring the structure and further updates will be issued as more information becomes available.
(Lead image: Sean Pursey)
Sandfields project provides carbon-neutral homes using innovative methods and materials
The new homes will be insulated using wood, wool, and mushrooms
Two Neath-based construction companies – J.G. Hale Construction, and timber frame construction specialist, SO Modular – are collaborating on a state-of-the-art project to build 55 new homes, and refurbish 72 existing flats, in Sandfields, Aberavon.
The scheme will eventually provide 127 carbon-neutral homes for social housing provider, Tai Tarian, delivered across three phases, over three years.
The project is a continuation of the existing relationship between J.G. Hale Construction, SO Modular, and Tai Tarian, and is funded by the Innovative Housing Programme (IHP) – a Welsh Government funded programme to encourage and test innovative approaches to constructing social and affordable housing in Wales.
Construction of the 55 new homes and refurbishment of the 72 flats will be completed utilising modern methods of construction (MMC), including construction of all new homes off-site at SO Modular’s timber frame factory.
The scheme will achieve carbon neutrality via a range of in-house green and sustainable initiatives.
Most notable of these is the use of natural, eco-friendly forms of insulation made from three unusual and innovative materials: welsh sheep’s wool, locally sourced from Neath-based Crynant Farm; mycelium, the vegetative filament root structure of mushrooms; and a wood-fibre insulation developed in-house at SO Modular.
The pioneering insulation methods are providing a pilot study for the viability of their use in the wider construction industry.
As well as reducing the project’s overall carbon footprint, the use of these materials and technology aims to reduce fuel poverty for the development’s tenants by ensuring all homes are built with the top EPA rating of A.
A household is deemed to be in fuel poverty if, in order to maintain a satisfactory heating regime, it requires a spend of more than 10% of its net income on fuel, and in ‘severe’ fuel poverty if fuel costs are more than 20% of household income. Recent Welsh Government figures state that an estimated 155,000 households were living in fuel poverty during 2019 – equivalent to 12% of all households in Wales.
Both J.G. Hale Construction and SO Modular are recognised for being dedicated to innovative, eco-friendly design, quality materials and finishes, and sustainable building practices. The companies are committed to using local sub-contractors and suppliers, with all suppliers and sub-contractors for the Sandfields project sourced from within Wales, with 95% residing within Neath and Swansea.
In collaboration with Neath Port Talbot College, the partnership will also be providing specialist, innovative traineeships, via their in-house training academy. The trainees will be supported by in-house mentors, who are specialists in their respective fields.
A range of Community Benefits will also be provided for the local community, coinciding with the Welsh Minister of Housing’s Wellbeing of Future Generations Wales Act, 2015.
Tai Tarian’s director of assets, Andrew Carey, said: “County Flats is a prominent part of the Aberavon seafront. Built in the 1950s, the flats are looking tired and are in desperate need of updating. This development will do just that and will provide flats that will be amongst the most energy efficient and sustainable homes in Wales.
“It’s fantastic that we will be working with J.G. Hale Construction, who have committed to using local products and local people.”
David Harrhy, managing director of J.G. Hale Construction, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with SO Modular on this incredibly innovative project for Tai Tarian. The development, when completed, will be completely unique in its use of new sustainable materials and technologies, which we are sure will become more widely used within the construction industry.
“We fully support Tai Tarian’s objective to reduce fuel poverty for its social housing tenants, and by building all homes to the ultimate EPA rating of A, we will not only be helping the tenants save money on their fuel bills, but also be helping reduce energy usage, which is great news in tackling climate change.”
Charlotte Hale, operations director, SO Modular, said: “We’re very proud to be working on this collaboration with J.G. Hale Construction for social housing provider Tai Tarian. The use of these ground-breaking materials, along with our modern methods of construction, should set the standard for similar, future developments.”
“Our commitment to using local sub-contractors and training local people will, undoubtedly, improve the skills and opportunities for those in the Swansea and Neath areas, making the region the go-to place for knowledge on these new sustainable materials and methods.”
Barclays confirms closure of bank branches in Gorseinon and Port Talbot
Barclays has confirmed the permanent closure of its Gorseinon and Port Talbot bank branches as part of its swath of almost 50 branch closures across the UK.
The bank has said the closures are largely due to changes in customer banking habits, and more use of online banking.
The Gorseinon branch is due to close on Friday 11 February 2022.
Barclays say the number of counter transactions at the Gorseinon branch has gone down in the two years to March 2020, with 83% of branch customers also using other ways to do their banking such as online and by telephone – something which has increased by 12% since 2015.
The bank also says that in the past 12 months 38% of Gorseinon branch customers have been using other nearby branches, with only 83 customers use this branch exclusively for their banking.
The last day of trading for the Port Talbot branch of Barclays will be on Friday 25 February 2022.
Once it closes, the nearest Barclays branch for people living in Port Talbot will be five miles away on The Parade in Neath, or eight miles away at the Enterprise Park in Llansamlet. Customers can also do some banking services at the nearest post office on Station Road in Port Talbot.
Barclays says the Port Talbot branch is closing as, similarly to to Gorseinon, counter transactions have gone down in the two years to March 2020 and 85% of branch customers also use other ways to do their banking such as online and by telephone.
In the past 12 months 22% of this branch’s customers have been using other nearby branches, with only 153 customers use this branch exclusively for their banking.
Lead image: Barclays Gorseinon (Image: Geograph / Jaggery)
Banksy mural leaves Port Talbot to be displayed in England
Street artist Banksy’s mural ‘Season’s Greetings’ that appeared on a garage in Port Talbot in 2018 is to leave the town for an exhibition in Peterborough instead.
Neath Port Talbot Council says that the temporary agreement between themselves and art dealer John Brandler to house his Banksy artwork Season’s Greetings in an unoccupied shop unit in Port Talbot’s town centre is coming to an end.
Owner, John Brandler however says that the decision to remove the work from Port Talbot has been “forced upon him” by the council as “there was such a demand for commercial space” in the area.
He said: “I didn’t instigate the removal of the Banksy, the council did and I wish them the best success for the town in the commercial space.”
The Banksy appeared on the walls of a Taibach garage in December 2018 sparking widespread interest and the Welsh Government paid for around-the-clock security while its future was decided.
The piece was purchased by Essex based Mr Brandler with the Welsh Government agreeing to pay for the valuable artwork to be moved at its expense to a new unoccupied retail unit in Ty’r Orsaf, Port Talbot, where it could be viewed by members of the public. That arrangement terminates on January 14th next year and it is understood that Season’s Greetings is to feature in a street art exhibition in Peterborough due to start next month.
Neath Port Talbot Council say they want to thank Pobl for its agreement to house the Banksy since 2018, giving many people the chance to view the piece. Since its appearance and its subsequent display in the town centre, it has sparked great interest in street art generally within the County Borough and has led to the development of further street art works in Port Talbot in particular, which the council supports.
In a statement, the council added: “The council wishes the owner of Season’s Greetings well and is grateful so many people had the chance to view it here in the time it was loaned to us. The future of Season’s Greetings is now of course a matter for Mr Brandler.”
In an additional statement, the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council Cllr Ted Latham said: “I feel that because of the range of misinformation that is currently circulating regarding the impending departure of the Banksy mural Season’s Greetings, it is now appropriate to set the record straight.
“When the council made enquiries as to plans for the piece, given the temporary arrangement to house it at Pobl’s Ty’r Orsaf building is due to end in January next year, the council was informed it would now be moved to Peterborough where an exhibition of street art is due to be held, starting from next month.
“Discussions were held on future arrangements and the potential for the work to remain in Port Talbot, but the council was informed it would have to meet the costs of its removal and installation into the new venue, to continue to cover the insurance and to pay a fee in the region of £100,000 per year for the loan of the work.
“It has been estimated the cost of removal and relocation to another venue (even without insurance to cover the operation to move it) of Season’s Greetings would be around £50,000.”
(Lead Image: FruitMonkey / Wikimedia)
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